THE STORMY NORTH 45-
fabulous a country is worthy of something rather more imposing.
My guide up the Khyber was a young officer who had seen
four years' service in the tribal areas. From the very first moment,
the Pass seemed strangely familiar, thanks to Kipling and Holly-
wood. The famous signpost greeted us as though it were an, old
friend—the signpost that has been set up on the threshold of the
pass for the benefit of the illiterate; with its picture of a motor
car pointing to the high road on one side, and of a camel pointing
to the camel-track on the other. No letters, just pictures.. .for
of what avail would letters be, even to those who had learned to
read ? The Khyber is a babel of tongues ; you would need a sign-
post a mile high to transcribe them. That is a point that might be
pondered, for a moment, by those who talk of the cUnity of India'
as though it were a law of nature.
I used to think that the one part of the world on which God had
most surely set his curse was the basin of the Dead Sea, where the
land is like the skin on a mummy's face and the air is heavy with
a breath that seems to drift from the mouth of hell. But the curse
of the Khyber is even more terrible. The Dead Sea is a place that
God has forgotten, but the Khyber is a place that He has remem*
bered and remembered with wrath. Surely these rocks w ere hurled
down in anger by giant hands, the same that rent the trees and
the grass from the hillside, leaving them so bare that even a few
starved black goats can barely scratch a living out of them ?
As we drive higher and higher, into deeper desolation, the only
signs of civilization—if that is not too ironic a word—were to be
seen in the preparations which the British had made, and were
still making, for the Khyber's defence. The hills bristled with gun
emplacements, the traps—and they were jxot traps for tanks only
—were of a sort to give pause to even the most mobile mountain
regiment. Nothing had been forgotten. As we turned a hair-pin
bend we came to a sheer cliff in which there could be seen a series
of doors. These led to an underground hospital, equipped with
every modern gadget.
Yes—the Khyber looks ahead. You may ask—e towards which
enemy ?' In these days, when international fraternity seems once
again to be struggling into existence, such questions are obviously